2013 Honda Fit EV: First Drive Of Honda's All-Electric Car Page 3

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2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

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Honda thoughtfully provided a curving uphill on-ramp on the short, 7-mile drive route (we did several loops), which showed off the Fit EV's ability to accelerate past both slow-moving semis and aggressively-driven sport utilities with blacked-out windows and aftermarket wheels.

Better handling than Leaf

Honda said using Sport mode will cut range about 10 percent, while driving in Eco mode can add as much as 17 percent to the stated 82-mile range. (We think it's still not worth it, unless you're in extremis.)

With a 55-45 weight distribution (better than the standard, nose-heavy gasoline Fit) and its low-mounted battery pack, the Fit EV handles nicely and corners flat.

In head-to-head handling course comparisons with a Nissan Leaf, the electric Honda clearly came out ahead and drove more responsively.

The ride is firm, with noticeable tire noise on some surfaces,

Honda provides a "B" mode on the drive selector, which increases the brake regeneration. In standard "D" mode, the Fit EV drives like a conventional vehicle fitted with an automatic transmission.

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

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We spent quite a lot of time in "B" mode, and can say that it's not nearly as aggressive as similar modes on other electric cars, particularly the BMW ActiveE and Tesla Roadster. It allows "one-pedal driving" some of the time, but we still found ourselves using the brakes more than we would have in one of those cars.

Using "B" mode also precludes use of the cruise control, which has been set to keep the Fit EV at constant speed even when heading downhill (some conventional cars do this as standard, but others don't).

The electric servo brake system, which uses a "pedal force simulator" to give pedal feedback, transitioned imperceptibly between regenerative and friction braking. When driven smoothly, the Fit EV uses its conventional brakes only in hard braking and below 10 mph to come to a complete stop.

Any color as long as it's blue

The 2013 Honda Fit EV comes in one color--Reflective Blue Pearl--and one trim level, which takes a top-level Fit and adds a navigation system with rear-view camera, real-time FM traffic, and interior fabric made of "bio-PET," or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thread that's sourced from sugar cane rather than petroleum..

It also adds HondaLink EV telematics, the first limited rollout of a system that will be introduced across more Honda products in the coming years (we suspect the all-new 2013 Accord may be next).

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Honda Fit EV shown at Los Angeles Auto Show, Nov 2011

Enlarge Photo

That smartphone app allows owners to see such data as battery state of charge, and to control charging, precondition the cabin temperature while the car is still plugged in, and find local charging stations.

The Fit EV also comes with a small remote control that works at distances up to 1,000 feet. It displays much of the same information, and controls some of the same functions, as the HondaLink EV app.

The 2013 Fit EV comes with full roadside assistance for the 3-year lease period, part of what Honda said was its attempt to provide the best possible ownership experience for drivers of this new and advanced plug-in car.

The $389/month lease cost also includes collision coverage, an annual navigation system update, and all maintenance.

Too bad about that

Overall, we liked our drive in the Honda Fit EV a lot. Unless we absolutely needed more interior room to carry five passengers, we'd likely choose it over a Nissan Leaf.

And that's the problem: Most buyers interested in electric cars won't have that option. Nissan wants to sell as many Leafs as possible, while Honda wants to sell no more than 1,100 Fit EVs.

If you're in California or Portland, a visit to a Honda dealer certified to offer electric cars may be in order.

Even if you don't lease one, you'll likely enjoy the test drive.

Honda provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.


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Comments (18)
  1. Looks like they're just putting this out for the publicity that it generates. Maybe the media shouldn't cover "compliance vehicles" to deny this, however, they may be just trying to gauge demand without committing to production.

  2. I, for one, am interested in what is being produced whether it is prototype, production, or compliance.

  3. A tough choice; support the 'compliance car' or deny them publicity. For me, it comes down to this. No publicity, no progress. If we all swoon over Honda's car there is at least some chance that they'll realize the potential and move forwards. If nothing, its success is a snub to their silly antics with hydrogen power.

  4. By not allowing the vehicle to be purchased and by having such a small number of cars available they are pretty much going to guarantee a poor response and low demand for the car. How is this a valid test of demand for a product? One might almost suspect they want to "prove" there is no demand for the technology.

  5. The Fit EV is the most enigmatic EV offering to hit the market. If it's just a compliance car why is it so darn good? And from a company that's basically the ICE king, it's ICEs powering anything from lawnmowers, motorcycles, outboard engines etc. My guess is it's a loaded gun pointed straight at Big Oil. Remember it has the Toshiba SCiB battery, the one that could be recharged in 10 minutes, the one that oil interests fear more than any other current chemistry, because ultra fast recharging batteries is what will make oil obsolete eventually. Honda doesn't offer that capability but the message to the oil interests is clear: a fast charging EV could be a lot closer than you think so keep those gasoline prices under control or else...

  6. I am really curious about the Fit EV. I wonder if Honda is taking it extra cautious this time. It probably wants to learn about the battery and peformance trade off as much as it can before it fully dives into the EV world. Its hybrid has been fairly disappointing, so I assume Honda would make sure its EV won't be a lot better.

    Also, I am curious on how the fan based cooling system would work in extreme heat (now with all the Leaf battery issue).

  7. Honda better hurry it up. The Germans are coming, the Germans are coming (BMW, VW) with their own versions.

  8. Car manufacturers should not be given credit for "compliance" unless the vehicles are actually SOLD. To lease only is just playing games.

  9. One must first crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Testing cars is critical to rolling out new technology. At least the lease is 3 years and is very inexpensive. No excuse to not get one if you live in the test market.

  10. Wow. Too bad it's not for real. Sounds like what I want, but I'm in ATL.

  11. I saw one of these in Hermosa Beach, CA, a few weeks ago. It already had white HOV stickers. I was a bit shocked and did a major double-take. Very nice car. I hope it does well in its limited production run.

  12. Great job John. Good to finally meet you this event.

    Yes, We are back to the 90's. This is Honda EV Plus all over again!
    Or GM EV1 all over again.

    I had an EV1 and I have been there, done this already. I don't know how many times an OEM gets to game the system like this under the excuse that they are "learning how people use a car".

    But this time it's a huge car sin as this little EV is so great and fun to drive.

    Shame on them. This is simple a great car product. I would hope carmakers were still in the business of bring us new and innovative products the move auto technology forward.

    They need to put this car out to the public and stand behind it.
    Just as Apple would with a tot new product. The public will get it.
    It just take time.

  13. Sorry for the quick typing. ;)

  14. I'd love to test their fan cooling on the battery here in Phoenix. That's all they do on the prius line and it seems to work fine but a real life test is always best wit each design.

    Too bad it's just a lease and not for sale.

  15. I wonder if the impact of temperature on NiMH is less than with Li-Ion?

  16. Hello John,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the Fit EV -- I'd love to be able to drive one! I have two questions:

    Is there less front headroom than in the standard Fit? I'm fairly sure that the rear headroom is reduced because of the battery pack requiring the space.

    And did you try the Eco(nomy) mode long enough to try the free-wheel coasting? I am hoping that the free-wheel coasting when you lift your right foot off of the accelerator pedal is implemented by all other EV's, and I would like to hear how it worked for you.


  17. a few points to consider.
    The BMW Mini-E program began as a one year lease 3rd party retrofit with no commitment to anything else from BMW. That limited effort blossomed into a two year lease extension for the Mini-E , then a phase two car which is the ActiveE, Then a whole division of BMW, BMW i to join BMW and BMW M, and then production plans with billions invested,under way for the BMW i3 and i8 coming late next year. So that's great progress for BMW and for electric cars.

    Honda, by setting the bar very low in a similar manor, sets itself up for success in future years. They could very well walk away in three years and crush the cars.

    My guess is that this program will also lead to other EV efforts similar to BMW's path.

  18. there is no putting the genie back in the bottle this time around :)
    I'm looking forward to being a driver of the Honda Fit EV

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